CEO Talk: Claude Joseph Cloutier

February 25, 2018, anysilicon

This is an interview with Claude Joseph Cloutier, President and Chief Executive Officer with XtremeEDA Corporation.


Claude Cloutier Fielding Photo August 2013 (1)


Tell me a bit about your background? How did you first get started with your XtremeEDA?


I started out my work career in 1978 as an Air Navigator in the Canadian Air Force flying long-range maritime patrol and ended up at National Defence Headquarters as a requirements staff officer with program management responsibilities.  I resigned my commission in 1990 and have been in private industry ever since.  In 2002, the company I was working for collapsed in the dot-com bubble and some of my colleagues and I decided that we would start up a company and focus on EDA product development, but it was soon obvious that no one at that time would fund an EDA venture and so we returned to professional services.  I prefer to do services so when we turned to professional services again, that is when I fully committed to the CEO role and driving our success.  Our success allowed my partners to leave XtremeEDA and start an EDA company as they originally set out to do.  Now I’m the only partner remaining and I’m still having fun doing professional services and helping our clients’ projects succeed.


Tell me about XtremeEDA?


XtremeEDA Corporation is a professional services firm based in North America that is focused on ASIC/SoC/FPGA front end design and design verification.  We have deep expertise and experience across multiple domains including, but not limited to, 5G wireless, microprocessors, networking, interconnect, and a wide variety of high-speed protocols.


When did you start XtremeEDA ? What were you doing before that?


We started at the end of 2002 after the dot-com collapse.  Before that, I was a program and project manager for a couple of services companies doing various kinds of projects from writing requirements specifications to managing ASIC, FPGA, firmware and applications/systems software projects.  One of the things I love about services is the wide variety of technologies you get exposed to.  I really enjoy helping our clients succeed.


What problem did you see that needed to be fixed? What is your approach to solving that?


In the early 2000s, SystemVerilog emerged along with various methodologies.  We understood that the market was going to need help with these advanced technologies that not only included how to architect the test environment but how to code and implement the right test strategies.  We played a key role in the roll out of SystemVerilog and also helped develop some of the key methodologies that have now evolved into the Universal Verification Methodology—UVM.  Today, we continue to provide those skills across a wide variety of clients.


How was the role/offering of XtremeEDA changed during the recent years?


We added very experienced designers to our team over the years because we saw the need to span both design and design verification.  That has enabled us to offer turnkey solutions in collaboration with our offshore and backend partners.


Did any of the market consolidation (or acquisition) affected your business and how?


If you have been in this business as long as we have, you would know that in previous years there was a sine wave of revenue in the annual results.  This provided us with a fairly predictive revenue model.  However, when the wave of consolidation started happening in late 2015, that sine wave was disrupted.  Along with a more unpredictable revenue model, it also created less demand for services since consolidation always disrupts projects and budgets as the integration of the firms takes time to figure out.  Now that the consolidation is mostly done and M&As have slowed up, we believe the market is about to expand significantly for services as the amount of work implied by the expansion of new technologies requires even more experienced personnel.


Which market segment seems promising to you? And why?


We like the application segments that will be driven by Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning.  Things like IoT for Smart Cities, smart logistics, etc.  To that end, we’ve been developing a Multi-Processor Platform that contains all the key building blocks needed to successfully develop secure and safe systems in the field.  We like these types of projects for their design complexity and the challenge of verifying them cost-effectively, but also in a way that ensures first-pass silicon.  We believe that this is what makes XtremeEDA engineering the best-value services provider in the marketplace.



What is a typical customer for XtremeEDA?


Most of our work is done with Tier 1 semiconductor and systems companies, but we do work with a lot of smaller companies including startups.  Our clients are typically Vice Presidents and Senior Managers of engineering departments who have quite a lot of experience in ASIC and SoC projects.  They’re the type of people who value experienced personnel who can get the job done right and can easily integrate into, and with, their own engineering teams.


Customers are focused on time-to-market, first-time-right, price, etc. Do you see a change in customer behaviour in recent years? Where is the focus today and why?


Each client has a unique take on what matters to them most, but it is correct that as ASICs and SoCs have become more expensive to develop and produce that getting it right the first time, on time for the market window the client is targeting is extremely important.  Price of course is always under pressure due to the high cost of these types of projects.  Today, I would say that the smarter clients are looking for best value that fits their project need, rather than lowest price from their suppliers.


What are the 3 top things you wish your customers would do better (or different)?


It would be great if a conversation of what best value looks like would happen more regularly.  It would also be great if our clients had a better orientation to an ecosystem approach.  This would shift the conversation from a transactional approach to a transformational approach—how can we both win together and support each other.  I believe that this will inevitably happen due to market forces.


Are you currently hiring? What type of jobs?


Yes, we are always looking for great ASIC/SoC design and design verification engineers.


What is your #1 advice for people who want to work for XtremeEDA?


It is a given that to work in professional services at XtremeEDA you have to be a competent engineer—no matter what your level of seniority is and also like to help people.  We emphasize quality of work with quality of life.  To work at XtremeEDA means that you work hard for 40 hours and you get to go home and be with your family or do whatever it is that you are passionate about outside work.  There is occasional overtime, but we think there is too much exploitation of workers in our industry.  To counter this type of exploitation, we give voice to our employees on company policies through our Compensation Council.  So, working for us means that you bring your total person to the organization in a way that balances individual and corporate needs.  If we had a motto, it would be Dignity and Respect.


Where can one find more information?


You can get more information about XtremeEDA through our website, www.xtreme-eda.com and also www.glassdoor.com which is a great resource that I would encourage all job seekers to compare prospective employers.


What is the best moment in your day?


When I help people.


How do you keep yourself energized and engaged during the day?


By working hard and having fun at the same time.  One of my concerns for our industry is the ethical dimension of our organizational culture and the ethics of advanced technology, particularly the rules we embed in our artificial intelligence systems.  I believe that this will be the central leadership challenge for the next two decades.  I can never tire of blending philosophy and technology with doing right by people.


What is your preferred lunch discussion topic?


I very much enjoy talking about sports, especially with my VP Sales who is from Boston and is very passionate about Boston teams.  That makes for some fun conversations!


How do you spend your time outside working hours?


I recently finished a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems and so I’m involved as an academic writing papers and helping others through their doctoral program.  I’m also thinking about writing another book or two on compensation and leadership and how to develop positive organizational cultures.  When I’m not in the academic mode, I love to go hiking and fishing and taking part in activities in and around my community with my friends.

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